Lenten season encourages repentance, re-focus, return to God

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In a time of increased apathy and busy-ness, the season of Lent provides participants a valuable time of renewal and re-alignment. Around the world, Christians observe this ancient spiritual season, embracing varied rituals of self-denial, prayer and repentance.

Here in the Lowcountry, Christian faith communities are setting aside special times for worship and prayer during the 40 days of Lent that this year started on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, and concludes on Easter Sunday, April 12.

This year, like the more than 10 years prior, congregations of various denominations gather together each Wednesday in Lent for a service at noon. Being united for a short time in a different building each week and hearing a different preacher each week, the individuals from different denominations, churches, or no church connection join in a simple meal.

Conversations over the table, while breaking bread together, expose all too often the shared reality that we are all running full speed in circles, but not really living life with direction, purpose, or passion. Consumed by the drama of daily life, in the form of threats of viruses, stresses of classes, work, relationships and family, we find little energy or time left for God and the life God promises.

So the 40 days of Lent provides a great time to "repent" - to turn or return to God and re-focus our lives to be more in line with Jesus. In many ways, Lent can be a 40-day journey in changing one's lifestyle and letting God change the heart.

At the center of this journey of Lent, is the cross. The cross is the symbol of the ultimate measure of compassion, commitment and sacrifice. The visible witness of the cross reminds the believer the extent Christ would go to show us how much we are loved. The cross also reminds us - those who desire to be known as his followers- that we too are called to compassion, commitment and sacrifice.

Yet the cross stands empty as does the tomb, reminding us that death was not and is not the end. That even in our darkest time of hate, anger, loneliness, despair, fear, and anything else that would try and separate us, the love of God remains unconquered. Death, although real and present, cannot and will not win.

In the end, love will and does win. May this be true for you and me this Lenten season.

Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.

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